It may not look pretty but mincemeat, the filling in mince pies, is one of the first tastes of a traditional British Christmas. I had my first mince pie this year this weekend – very early, I know, I usually try to leave it to December – at the Good Food Show in London. I’d never been to the Good Food Show before but it’s a great day out. There are so many different things to look at and taste (and buy!) and as a lot of the smaller exhibitors are there with their own products they are very keen to engage and talk about them. You can definitely learn a lot if you want to. I got some tips on sloe gin and discovered that it is possible to make vodka entirely from cow’s milk. As well as trying various flavoured oils, vinegars, chocolates, etc, etc, we even got to see Michel Roux Jr make a savoury choux dish live in the show theatre. Although you could just spend the day drinking hundreds of tiny glasses of alcohol if you chose to!
If you’re going to make mince pies you may as well tailor your mincemeat to suit your tastes. Traditionally sultanas, currants and candied peel are used in mincemeat. I have used my favourite dried fruits in this recipe and it qualifies as luxury because it includes more expensive ingredients such as dried apricots, cranberries and glacé cherries as well as a good amount of brandy. You could easily use it as a base and substitute other fruits or alcohol: maybe glacé pineapple for a more Caribbean take, or marsala, port or cointreau instead of brandy. The alcohol acts as a preservative and adds a depth of flavour: the alcohol should disappear during cooking. Mincemeat will keep for a few months at least and will mature. It won’t last until next Christmas though so make sure you give it away as gifts or use it up before this Christmas.
A couple of years ago I tried Delia Smith’s mincemeat recipe which needs a few hours in the oven at a very low temperature. I have taken the method for this year’s recipe from others I have found online and it really couldn’t get any simpler: mix all the ingredients together, leave to stand for about 24 hours (stirring every now and then) and then pack into sterlised jars. It’s so quick and easy you’ll be able to make some more before Christmas if you run out.
This recipe filled exactly three 500ml Kilner jars.
100g chopped dried apricots
100g glacé cherries, chopped
100g chopped mixed peel
25g chopped almonds
175g dark brown sugar
100g vegetable or beef suet
200g grated apple
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
Juice of half a lemon
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars, making sure it is quite well packed down.